District hires associate super

The Ector County ISD Board of Trustees voted 6-0 to approve Anthony Sorola as associate superintendent of operations.

Sorola, who was OK’d during a Tuesday night workshop, replaces Stephanie Howard, who is now superintendent at Crane ISD.

Sorola joins ECISD after six years in assistant superintendent roles, the board recap said; the past two years as assistant superintendent of human resources in Donna ISD, and four prior years as assistant superintendent of administrative services in Lufkin ISD. Twelve of his 21 years in education have come as an administrator.

Sorola began his career in 2001 as a bilingual teacher in Dallas ISD. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Rice University, a master of education from the University of Texas at Arlington and earned his doctorate from UT Austin where he was a Fellow in the UT Cooperative Superintendency Program, the recap said.

An evaluation of Opportunity Culture conducted by Texas Tech University indicates that the program is working well in Ector County ISD, especially during a pandemic year.

According to the presentation, students perform better on standardized tests when taught by teachers in the Opportunity Culture program.

The district implemented Opportunity Culture to provide equitable access to excellent instruction for all students; recruit and retain excellent teachers; and provide all teachers with excellent development and advanced career opportunities.

The key to Opportunity Culture is the multi-classroom leader, a teacher who heads a campus team and not only serves students but provides daily support and coaching to members of that campus team.

ECISD implemented Opportunity Culture at eight schools during the 2020-21 school year, and now 17 schools are using the model in the 2021-22 school year, the recap detailed.

At the end of last school year ECISD asked Texas Tech University researchers to conduct an independent review of the program and its effectiveness. Those researchers — Alexander Wiseman, Jessica Gottlieb and Jacob Kirksey — presented findings to trustees.

The researchers observed the MCL’s pedagogy and learning, managing and leading; they performed a quantitative analysis of student classroom outcomes; and they conducted a series of interviews with those involved in Opportunity Culture.

The researchers received data for more than 20,000 ECISD students including STAAR assessments for third through eighth grades.

The key takeaways were that Opportunity Culture teaching models appear to correlate to positive, immediate academic gains for students in ECISD with the associations most pronounced in reading assessments; and for students with limited English proficiency and those considered at-risk; and the magnitude of these gains is significant — association of having an MCL or a team Teacher is equivalent to replacing the average ECISD teacher with an ECISD teacher in the top quartile, the recap said.

ECISD had 27 multi-classroom leaders during the 2020-21 school year that reached an average of 72% of students on those Opportunity Culture campuses, a total of 7,121 students. Now, ECISD has 59 MCLs across the 17 Opportunity Culture schools.
A third set of Opportunity Culture schools is in the planning stage, targeted to begin using this strategic staff structure with the 2022-23 school year.

The recap said Wiseman closed the presentation by telling trustees that their job as evaluators is to be critical, and they don’t often come across so many glowing remarks, which suggests the program has value at this time.

The board also heard presentations on the 2021-22 Campus Improvement Plans.

Each school, regardless of rating, is required to build a Campus Improvement Plan to serve as the blueprint for how it will uniquely address campus-specific needs, the recap said.

Plans are aligned with the district’s vision, strategic plan, and District Improvement Plan.

These plans will be on next week’s meeting agenda for approval by the trustees.

Trustees discussed revisions to board policy DEC (Local) Compensation and Benefits: Leaves and Absences. Proposed changes to this policy reflect recent changes in the law that give peace officers a maximum of three days of mental health leave per traumatic event experienced in the scope of their employment.

Additionally, peace officers are granted quarantine leave when ordered by the local health authority or the peace officer’s supervisor to quarantine/isolate due to possible or known exposure to a communicable disease while on duty (HB 2073). The item will be brought back to the board next week for a vote.